Facebook Is Too Crowded and Your Analytics Aren't Up to Snuff

Examining the Current Herd of Sacred Cows in the Advertising World

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Phil Johnson Phil Johnson
You've got to love Peter Madden for calling Facebook a "freak show" on his recent post. As you can imagine, a firestorm of comments followed. If social media is about conversation, then Peter is a maestro because he got everybody talking. And I don't think he cares whether you like his views or not. It's always tough to fly in the face of popular opinion, and right now social media is the sacred cow of the marketing community. Show any skepticism and you may incite the masses.

It's good practice, however, to identify the sacred cows and question them. Peter got me thinking about what other sacred cows are out there that deserve to be looked at with a critical eye. Here are my thoughts on three pillars of the established order, including social media.

1. The Future of Facebook and Twitter
For the record, I believe that social media has permanently changed the landscape of marketing. Tools now exist for consumers to control the conversation with companies, and smart marketers can participate and engage with customers more directly and honestly than ever before. That's a reality.

The sacred cow is the belief that Facebook and Twitter are the premier platforms for this revolution. As those platforms become mainstream, marketers like us turn them into forms of traditional paid media and they become less valuable as social networks. Facebook is already starting to resemble a tacky mall cluttered up with unwanted advertising and promotional noise. As time goes on, I predict that people will want to protect their closest community of friends and will find ways to block out everyone else. They will leave mega networks for smaller, more focused communities. If you really care about the principles of social media, start looking for the next generation of platforms because as far as Facebook and Twitter go, the neighborhood is getting too crowded.

2. Campaign Measurement and Analytics
Have mercy on the agency that goes into a new business pitch without a kick-ass measurement and analytic story. Some agencies build their entire positioning around this competency. My second sacred cow is the assumption that agencies, especially small ones, know how to do a particularly good job in this area. Sure, with Google Analytics and tools like Technorati, anybody can cobble together a cool measurement dashboard. The truth is that accurate and meaningful measurement can only be developed from sophisticated databases and people with enough applied math to use them. Digital agencies and some of the big boys have these capabilities. The rest of us will need to invest in technologies and resources that will be hard to integrate into the agency structure. And it will take months, if not years, to recover the costs. Agencies willing to sacrifice short-term profits to make these investments will be the winners.

3. Traditional Creative Departments
The third sacred cow is the sanctity of the advertising creative department. Concepts like crowd sourcing have begun to move creative development beyond the walls of the agency. Just look at business models like CrowdSpring that let companies use the web to go directly to the creative community and post creative assignments with a cash prize. Ideas like this have the potential to change the economics of how agencies sell their creative work. While these new models may not threaten the established order today, they point to a new way of thinking. Personally, I think CrowdSpring is perfect for small and independent agencies that want access to a greater creative community.

Who knows exactly what the future holds, but as creative thinkers and innovators it's part of our job to question the latest trends and challenge the status quo. The best of you will see the important changes on the horizon and figure out what they mean for your clients and your agencies. Hopefully, I'll be smart enough to stay right on your heels.

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